The government has been urged to consider allowing the hunting of Formosan sika deer in Kenting National Park, because the project to reintroduce the deer to the area has proven so successful that they are beginning to cause damage to the park’s ecology and nearby agriculture.
There are nearly 2,000 Formosan sika deer living in Pingtung County’s Hengchun Peninsula (恆春半島), but some have made their way into the Nanjenshan Ecological Protection Area (南仁山) and pose a risk to the protected plants in the area.
A report titled Kenting National Park Agricultural Risk Management Plan, focusing on the control of the Formosan sika deer population, was presented at Kenting National Park headquarters on Wednesday in the hope of reaching a balance between the deer, the environment and humans.
Photo: Tsai Tsung-hsien, Taipei Times
National Dong Hwa University environmental science professor Kurtis Pei (裴家騏), who helped draft the plan, said the idea of allowing hunting to control the deer population was brought up by some academics during the meeting.
Many nations, including Japan, the US and Australia, have used hunting to prevent overpopulation of animals, Pei said, adding that Taiwan still has plenty of restrictions in terms of laws and has a negative view of hunting.
However, changes would have to be made to the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act (原住民族基本法), the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法) and the National Park Act (國家公園法) before hunting could be considered an option, Pei said.
While the Wildlife Conservation Act stipulates that “when protected wildlife causes damage to crops, poultry, livestock or aquaculture... [they] may be hunted or killed using humane methods approved by the authorities to prevent the above-mentioned damage,” the National Park Act bans hunting altogether.
“The government could consider amending the law to allow the use of traps to hunt Formosan sika deer in winter and prevent agricultural production from being damaged in spring and summer,” Pei said.
Kenting National Park director Liu Pei-tung (劉培東) said birth control, including short-acting contraceptives that cost less than neutering, is the direction that the park is leaning toward.
Liu said the park is testing dosages with captive Formosan sika deer and hopes to apply the method to wild animals soon.
The park said Formosan sika deer have no natural enemies other than humans and can eat up to 151 kinds of plant, which has become a burden to the forest’s ecology.
Farms in Pingtung County’s Manzhou Towship (滿州) close to the wildlife area have had their crops — including dragon fruit, black peas, wax apples and various vegetables — spoiled by wild deer, with the only countermeasure available being the building of fences, possibly electric, the park said.
Formosan sika deer once roamed widely along the nation’s plains and in low mountain areas until about 200 to 300 years ago, when they became an important export product and were almost hunted to extinction.
In 1974, Formosan sika deer were listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources as critically endangered. The government initiated the Formosan Sika Deer Restoration Program in Kenting in 1984.
Ten Formosan sika deer from Taipei Zoo were released into the wild in the Shirding (社頂) area of the park in 1994 and releases continued until 2009. During that period, a total of 233 deer were released into the wild and, after years of reproduction, there are now about 2,000 deer on the peninsula, of which about 1,000 inhabit the Shirding, Longzaipu (籠仔埔) and Shuiwaku (水蛙窟) areas.
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